7.1 General context
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In order to evaluate the current status of public health in Latvia, studies on habits affecting health are conducted on a regular basis. One of the most comprehensive ones is the study of Health Behaviour among Latvian Adult Population (conducted every 2 years). The results of 2020 indicate that the number of young people (15-24 years old), who evaluate their health as good, has grown in recent years (52,3% of men and 46,0% of women). Compared to the previous period, young people are paying more attention to healthy eating habits. For example 19,9% of young men and 33,8% of young women eat fresh vegetables 6-7 days a week
The data of the study of 2020 indicate that is 26.3% of men and 14.6% of women aged 15 to 24 have overweight and obese. In addition, an the 2017/2018 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey is conducted, where 11, 13 and 15 years old children are the target group, and it includes different matters regarding health habits, obesity, oral health, prevalence of addictive substances, injuries and mental health. Overall, it can be concluded that healthy lifestyle habits should be promoted in young people, as well as the use of highly fatty food, food with extra sugar and salt on a daily basis should be reduced.
As to the area of addiction, Latvia periodically organises a study named “Habits and trends of use of addictive substances among pupils” (ESPAD), which is happening every four years. To determine the overall trend in students’ experiences of trying any addictive substance, ESPAD calculates an overall indicator of abstinence from any addictive substance, including cigarettes, alcohol, illicit drugs, inhalants and tranquillizers, or non-prescription sedatives. In 2019, 7.6% of Latvian students had completely abstained from trying any addictive substances, more often boys (9.1%) than girls (6.0%). Since the 2015 survey, there has been an improvement in the situation in Latvia, in the form of an increase in the proportion of students who have experienced abstinence from trying any addictive substances, for example, comparing 2011 and 2019, the indicator has a positive dynamic by 5 percentage points. However, despite this positive dynamics, Latvia’s results lag significantly behind the ESPAD average of 18% in 2019.
With support of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, a “Study on unfavourable experiences gained by Latvian young people in childhood” was implemented in 2010 and 2011, the purpose of which was to become aware of the prevalence of unfavourable experiences of Latvian young people in childhood. The target population of this study were pupils of form 12 of general education schools (secondary schools) and students of year 3 and 4 of vocational educational institutions. Overall, 16.9% of young people (participants of surveys) have not experience any of factors of unfavourable experience in their childhood, while 26.9% gained unfavourable experience.
The main policy planning document in the health sector are the Public Health Guidelines for 2014-2020, which are based on the WHO European Region Strategy Health 2020, and has been developed to increase the number of healthy life years of the Latvian population and to prevent premature death by maintaining, improving and restoring health. The guidelines provide for health promotion and disease prevention measures in the following directions – reduction of the risk of non-infectious diseases, improvement of health of pregnant women and children, reduction of the effects of injuries and environmental risks on public health and prevention of infectious diseases, special attention is also devoted to the persons subject to the risk of social exclusion and poverty, including young people. On the basis of main action lines, the guidelines include measures in the fields of promotion of healthy diet, physical activities, mental (psychic) health, sexual and reproductive health and substances and the reduction of the prevalence of processes causing addiction. At the same time, in order to stimulate equal health opportunities for all the Latvian population, partnership and interindustry cooperation is promoted, involving sectors also outside the health sector.
The new public health planning document is currently under development.
The National Development Plan of Latvia for 2021–2027 (approved in Saeima on 2 July 2020) is hierarchically the highest national-level medium-term development planning document and is an action plan for the Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030 (Latvia 2030), which should serve as a roadmap for the development of state in the medium term. It focuses on popularising of active lifestyle, healthy diet, physical activities (including in national sports), reproductive health and prevention of injuries and targeted implementation of measures in the society.